The Royal Exchange Theatre and Bruntwood have announced the shortlist for the prestigious Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. The Prize – the largest for playwriting in Europe – seeks scripts from established, emerging and debut writers to develop for the stage, in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre’s creative team.
This year’s 15 shortlisted scripts were selected from 2,561 new plays submitted to the Prize following the competition launch in January. Each playwright entered anonymously, meaning all scripts were judged on their own merit by impartial readers, with no knowledge of the writer’s background or previous experience.
The shortlist is vivid, imaginative and topical, with politics, mental health, race relations and climate change just some of the themes appearing within the scripts. Female voices are also strongly represented across the shortlisted works, with eight of the 15 shortlisted plays written by women.
The Prize has a £40,000 fund across four categories. As well as an overall winner, who takes home £16,000, there are three further categories: The Judges Prize (£8,000), the Original New Voice for debut writers (£8,000) and the International Award (£8,000), for writers invited to enter by the Prize’s international partners.
The 10 UK scripts in the running for the overall £16,000 prize are as follows (listed alphabetically by surname).
black bird by Babirye Bukilwa
Shed: Exploded View by Phoebe Eclair-Powell
Neptune by Sam Grabiner
The European Hare by Sami Ibrahim
Glass by Jacob Kay
Salty Irina: (Retitled as ‘Title Redacted’ for the judging process) by Eve Leigh
Hares by Lee Mattison
Ballybaile by Jody O’Neill
Akedah by Michael John O’Neill
Glee & Me by Stuart Slade
Four of the playwrights shortlisted for the overall Prize – Babirye Bukilwa, Sam Grabiner, Jacob Kay and Michael John O’Neill – are also eligible for the Original New Voice Award.
The second category, the International Award, sees five playwrights from Australia and the USA vie to be crowned the winner. They are (listed alphabetically by surname):
TAMBO & BONES by Dave Harris (USA)
Pavlov’s Dogs by Emme Hoy (Australia)
untitled f*ck miss sa*gon play (srsly this is not the title) by Kimber Lee (USA)
This Land Was Made by Tori Sampson (USA)
Periods of Collapse OR Mother Russia by Lauren Yee (USA)
Suzanne Bell, Dramaturg at the Royal Exchange Theatre, said: “I am extremely pleased to present this year’s impressive shortlist for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, which for the first time includes international entries. It’s thrilling to see submissions growing year-on-year, and it is fantastic to celebrate the outstanding achievement of our 15 shortlisted writers who have been selected from over 2,500 entries. Theatre, as we know, is a mirror to the world. So, it comes as no surprise that many of the shortlisted plays reflect our times. From highlighting the crisis of mental health and the rise of the far right to stereotypes portrayed and enforced by the media, the 2019 shortlist represents the remarkable breadth of talent in the UK and further afield.”
Bryony Shanahan, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre and judge for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, added: “The Bruntwood Prize engages, encourages, supports and celebrates the craft of playwriting, beginning with the phenomenal online resources on http://www.writeaplay.co.uk and culminating in the help each of our winning writers will receive from the Royal Exchange. New work is the way in which theatre remains alive, and a vital way in which we can reflect on the world around us. These 15 writers have bravely shared their stories with us, and it is fantastic that we can celebrate their hard work and dedication and creativity with this announcement today.”
The 15 scripts have been judged by a prestigious panel of figures from across the arts industry. Alongside Bryony Shanahan, judges include: Kwame Kwei-Armah (Chair), Artistic Director of the Young Vic; Michael Oglesby CBE DL, founder of the Bruntwood Group and chairman of The Oglesby Charitable Trust; Anna Jordan, Bruntwood Prize-winning playwright; Bridget Minamore, journalist, poet and critic; Jenny Sealey MBE, Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre Company; Kate Vokes, Director of Social Impact, Bruntwood and actor Shane Zaza. New to the panel this year is ‘The People’s Judge’, Faith Yianni, a member of the public selected following a search by the Prize and leading theatre critic Lyn Gardner, to bring an audience member’s perspective to the judging process.
The winner of the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on Monday 4th November 2019.
The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting has a proven track record of finding new talent and helping established writers bring their stories to new audiences. Since its inception in 2005, over 15,500 scripts have been entered, £256,000 has been awarded to 28 prize-winning writers and 24 winning productions have been staged in 38 UK wide venues. In 2015, the Prize celebrated its 10th anniversary and is now recognised as a launch-pad for some of the country’s most respected and produced playwrights.
Co-producing partners have included the Lyric Hammersmith, Live Theatre, Soho Theatre, Bush Theatre, Orange Tree Theatre, Sherman Theatre, High Tide and The Royal Court Theatre. Work has also gone on to be produced internationally from Australia, USA, Germany, France to Canada and Sweden.
The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting also works in partnership with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, The Banff Centre Playwrights Lab, Melbourne Theatre Company, The Belvoir Theatre and The National Theatre New Work Department. Nick Hern Books continues to support the Bruntwood Prize as the publishing partner for winning playwrights.